Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD
Bacterial food poisoning is
an illness resulting from eating contaminated food. It is a common condition
caused by a variety of bacteria (Table 1). The diagnosis is usually made by the
symptoms and the fact that a group of individuals who ate the same foods have
similar symptoms. It is generally a selflimited disease that will resolve in a
few days. One form of food poisoning, botulism, is life-threatening
Living With Your
Symptoms of bacterial food
poisoning generally develop within 48 hours of eating the contaminated food.
Nausea and vomiting with abdominal cramps develop. Diarrhea is common and,
depending on the causative organism, may have blood in it. Fever may also be
present. In severe cases, shock and electrolyte abnormalities can develop
because of the diarrhea and
key to treatment is the replacement of fluids and electrolytes. Oral fluids such
as clear broth or special oral glucose-electrolyte preparations can be given.
Take small, frequent sips even if vomiting continues. If symptoms are severe,
hospitalization and intravenous fluids may be necessary. If the causative agent
is known, antibiotics may be of benefit in treating certain
• Bed rest with ready access
to bathroom or bedpan is necessary.
Continue to try to take oral fluids even if vomiting
• Advance to a soft, bland
diet as tolerated. Then gradually return to a normal diet over 1 or 2
• Avoid dairy products and
antacids containing magnesium if diarrhea is
• Save any samples of
recently eaten food that may help identify the
• Contact the local health
department if multiple individuals are affected. They can help identify the
source of the infection.
proper hygiene while preparing foods. Wash hands between the handling of
different foods. Keep the cooking area and all utensils
• Properly cook and store
foods. Throw out foods that do not “smell right” or are in bulging
• Wash the hands after using
• Avoid raw seafood
• Avoid fresh vegetables
that have not been properly washed.
Avoid unpasteurized food products.
Avoid drinking water and eating raw foods when traveling in foreign countries.
Fruits that are peeled before eating are generally
When to Call Your
• If young children or
older adults have symptoms of food
• If symptoms worsen after
• If vomiting is so
severe that you are unable to keep liquids
Organism Source How is
jejuni: Milk and poultry Eating undercooked poultry,meat, or raw dairy
Eggs and meat, Eating undercooked poultry,especially poultry eggs, meat, or raw
perfringens: Spores in food Eating contaminated meat,gravies, dried
aureus: Food contaminated Eating contaminated foods.by humans Especially
high-protein foods, egg salad, cream- filled pastries, poultry, and
cereus: Spores in food Eating contaminated cereals, fried rice, dried
foods, and herbs.
coli: Varies Eating raw vegetables and other foods. Drinking